Winter Continues and I’m Planning for Spring

It’s that time of year again.   My thoughts and expectations are focused on spring and the new growing season however,  winter continues!   Looking for the bright spot in this, it does give me time to ponder:

  • what worked well last year
  • what didn’t go so well and needs to be changed this year
  • what’s new and exciting in backyard gardening
  • is there a special project I want to focus on this year

Resources abound to help answer these questions:

  • Photos – take a picture of your gardens each month watch the progress/or lack of progress month by month (a borrowed idea I read somewhere)
  • Garden Catalogues
  • Gardening Magazines
  • Home and Garden Shows
  • Educational Opportunities – Check out Let’s Get Growing Spring Expo in Rosemount, MN on March 14, 2015 (
  • City Expos – Eagan and Lakeville have Expos scheduled for March 14, 2015
  • Garden Centers – many garden centers have limited hours of operation during the winter months here in MN

Don’t let the next blast of cold keep you from dreaming about your plans for your yards and gardens in 2015!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Meandering Minds Want to Know

While looking for new ideas I’ve spent many hours wandering through garden centers, designing and redesigning landscapes and containers on the fly.  Putting plants in my wagon, changing my mind when I see something more interesting, putting back some or all of what I’ve already chosen and starting again.   Most often this is because I’ve arrived at the garden center without a plan.  Not having a plan while meandering through the garden centers, my thoughts turn to:

  •   would that plant work in my garden?
  •   what would I do with that?
  •   what would be suitable companion plants with that really cool looking plant?

Meandering through the garden center can bring more questions than answers.   However, here’s an idea to find some of those answers – take some time to wander established home gardens!  Yes, there are people who will open their home gardens to the public and these garden tours are fabulous places to find some of the answers to those questions that pop into your head at the garden center.

Here is information on a garden tour that looks to be a good one this weekend in Dakota County:

I am always looking for new ideas so I may just see you there!

Posted in Education, Events, Events at the Garden, Garden Tour, Home Landscape, Perennials, Vegetable gardening | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Protecting Our Native Trees

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources defines an invasive species as “species that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

We’re looking at a two part definition.  In the first part we see that these species are not native to Minnesota.  We often use such terms as exotic, alien, introduced, etc.  There is an implication that all invasive species come from outside the United States.  This is not always the case.  These new pests simply come from outside Minnesota.  In the second part of our definition the key word is harm.  We are concerned with those pathogens, plants, animals or insects that can cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

The number one new pest facing our trees in Dakota County is the emerald ash borer (EAB).  The nearest confirmed sighting is in the area of Fort Snelling in Hennepin County and Highland Park in Ramsey County.   The general rule that the insect can travel by itself somewhere between 13-15 miles in a given year implies that within a short period of time we will have confirmed sightings within  Dakota County.

Do you know the symptoms to look for?  The first thing to look for is increased woodpecker activity.  These birds know a tasty treat when they find one.  This increased activity normally happens in the second year after EAB infestation and is followed by vertical splits in the bark and sometimes defoliation in the tree canopy.  A closer inspection could then reveal the large s-shaped galleries under the bark and the D-shaped exit holes.  These symptoms generally confirm that the tree has been infected.

Gypsy Moth

The second pest that we all need to be aware of is the gypsy moth.  It attacks several varieties of trees but here in Minnesota aspens and oak seem to be the favorite.  The gypsy moth caterpillars are capable of defoliating acres of trees.  It has arrived in Minnesota!  Not necessarily here in Dakota County, but it has invaded out state.  Lake and Cook counties in the Arrowhead region have reached the point where they will be experiencing the first steps in a quarantine.  How will it affect us?  Most of us will not be directly affected.  But if we have property in these counties or intend to vacation there we will feel the impact.

Thousand Canker Disease

Thousand Canker Disease is a third new pest that affects black walnuts.  It is a fungus carried by the walnut twig beetle.  When it enters the bark it leaves behind a fungus that causes a canker.  If you have any black walnut trees you need to be concerned and be able to recognize it.  For the rest of us you do need to know that it is now the law that black walnut wood of any size or shape cannot be imported into Minnesota.  A quarantine is in effect that makes this illegal.

Asian Longhorn Beetle

The fourth pest emerging in Minnesota is the Asian Longhorn Beetle.  While poplars, maples and box elders seem to be the preferred trees in Minnesota it also feeds on several other varieties which makes it especially dangerous.  Signs and symptoms include crown die-back, shallow depressions in the bark where the eggs are laid, sap seeping from these egg niches, pencil-size round exit holes and a sawdust on the top of branches or on the ground surrounding the tree.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Two new and emerging pests do not actually kill the tree but both will damage the fruit the tree produces. The first is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.  It has been found in several Minnesota counties and is considered a pest because it feed on fruit and vegetables.  The insect is also considered a nuisance as it invades houses and other buildings in the fall seeking warmth.  When disturbed, it emits a foul odor.

Spotted Wing Drosophila

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is also a new and emerging pest and has been found in 20 counties in Minnesota.  It is similar to a fruit fly.  But unlike the typical fruit fly that feeds on damaged fruit, SWD feeds  on intact, healthy, ripening fruit, especially thin-skinned berries.  The female can pierce the soft skin and lay its eggs.  In doing so there is also a possibility of an introduction of rot and fungus. So far in Minnesota the favorite has been raspberries.  It has been known to attack apples and other tree bearing fruits.

Oriental Bittersweet

In our training one invasive plant was discussed.  Oriental Bittersweet has been found in Dakota County in Burnsville and Eagan.  It is a vine that can grow over 60 feet long and will girdle and smother trees and shrubs.  It is spread by rhizomes and seeds, mainly through birds ingesting and then eliminating the seeds.  Through this natural action, entire plant communities have been known to be overwhelmed.  iI becomes our job to eradicate it.

What Can I Do?

We still need to answer one important question.  What should be done if you suspect you have found one of these tree pests?  There is an “Arrest the Pest” hotline you can email at or by phone at 888-545-6684.  Doing so could help us protect our native trees.

Authors: Dan and Cheryl Forrest

Posted in Home Landscape, Natives, Trees | Leave a comment

Building a Pollinator Garden

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”  It has been disputed if Albert Einstein ever really said this.  While the exact quote can’t be found, the thought behind it is valid.  We need not only bees but all pollinators.  Approximately 75% of the world’s flowering plants require a pollinator to reproduce.  Pollinators help produce one-third of our food.  It’s hard to imagine a diet without many fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Yet, pollinators are at risk.  This risk is documented and you can learn more by going to the Bee Squad at the University of Minnesota.  It is the purpose in this article to focus attention not on the risk, but on what we can do.  How can we help?  Here are some suggestions.

1.  Rethink your lawn!  Perfectly manicured grass does nothing for pollinators.  Maybe it’s time to let some dandelions and clovers grow in that back corner of your property.  These two wild flowers (not necessarily weeds) are prime food sources for pollinators during the late spring and early summer.  Stagger mowing so that some of the flowers are in bloom at all times.

Take steps to protect the pollinator habitat that exists on your property, especially if this area is out of the way.  This could be a bare patch of soil, a dead tree, a rock or brush pile where native pollinators build nests. This is the perfect time to cut down on the amount of grass you have and build a pollinator garden.  Let’s explore this further.  We will narrow pollinators to the most common ones – bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

2.  Design a pollinator garden!  First of all, you need sun. The vast majority of pollinator plants are sun-loving.  It should have a source of water available.  An old bird bath filled with pebbles and water makes an ideal source of water.  A mud bath will attract butterflies as well as bees. Make sure there is a safe distance from any area where you use chemicals. Better yet, avoid chemicals altogether. Although budget limitations might demand that you start small, allow room for expansion.  In the world of pollinators, bigger is better.

3.  Go native!  Avoid highly hybridized plants that are bred to be seedless and thus produce very little pollen and scent.  It’s been estimated that native plants are four times more attractive to pollinators than hybrids.  Emphasize diversity, not only in variety but also in size, especially plant height.  Your goal should be a minimum of 10 different plants; more is better.

When you plant, do so in clumps at least 3 feet in diameter.  Focus on bright colors.  For bees, it’s white, yellow, blue, violet, and purple.  Attract hummingbirds with red and orange colors.  If you include all these colors, you will attract butterflies also.

The shape of the flower is important.  Do not include “double” flowers as the pollinators cannot reach the nectar.  Single flowers are best.  Flowers that provide a natural platform give pollinators a place to land.  Flowers that resemble a bull’s-eye provide a nectar guide.  This is a region near the center of each petal not seen by humans but visible to the pollinator.  Some flowers should have a tubular shape to attract hummingbirds.

It is very important to provide nectar and pollen all season-long.  Include flowers that bloom continually or stagger bloom times to cover the entire growing season.  An excellent source of information regarding plants for bees can be found using your search engine for the “Bee Squad” at the University of Minnesota.

4.  Provide nesting sites!  The fourth suggestion is to provide nesting space that provides morning and mid-day sun.  Ideally, this should be within three hundred feet of the food sources.  Keep in mind that approximately 70% of all native bees are ground-nesters.  So an area of bare soil is mandatory.  These bees seldom nest in rich, compact soils so you might have to work some sandy or loamy matter into the soil.  The tunnel-nesting bees, approximately 30% of our native species, need old tree stumps, logs, or piles of twigs and branches.  Rock piles can also provide nesting areas.  Allow this area to remain untouched, especially during the fall and winter months to allow the eggs and larvae to develop.

There are man-made nesting solutions.  You can find plans on the internet for wooden nesting boxes, stem bundles, butterfly boxes, etc.  There are even plans for bumblebee nests.  Consider a honey bee hive and learn about their fascinating community lifestyle.

5.  Go organic! Finally, we can safeguard beneficial pollinators by going natural or organic.  Avoid the use of chemicals, including fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. Your pollinator garden is a good place to let the garden go wild.  If you must use chemicals, please do so in small, limited quantities and at times when the pollinators are resting, as in the late evening.  Remember, while you are killing one pest or weed, you are likely killing beneficial pollinators as well.

Using native plants can be a major step since they have their own built-in defense mechanisms. If you are starting your pollinator garden from scratch, it is an excellent time to incorporate Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices into your gardening.  You can download a copy of “Managing Pests in Landscapes & Homes” at the website for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Following these suggestions will not only add beauty to your yard but will help restore the pollinators we need.  Our future depends on these pollinators; without them our food source will dwindle.

By Cheryl and Dan Forrest, University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners, Dakota County

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Best Time to Prune Trees

Best Time to Prune Trees


Although trees are quite resilient and may be pruned anytime, there are both practical as well as biological reasons to prune or not prune during certain times of the year.

If it is between opening up a wound to heat or opening to the cold, opening the wound to the cold is best. Optimally, the perfect window would be past February and into March. The chance of frostbite on the sensitive cambium is less, and the sap is not rising.

When certain species are trimmed during the growing season, such as American Elms or Oaks, pheromones (scents) are given off at the wound, attracting insects that can carry fungus on their bodies that can infect these trees. These trees are best pruned in the fall or early spring.

Deadwood should be pruned anytime because it is a health and safety issue. Deadwood is food for decay organisms and the quicker it is removed from a tree the sooner it can start closing the wound and preventing the spread of decay.

If the tree was planted for its spring flowers, such as magnolia, dogwood, crabapple, you will want to wait until after it has flowered to prune. Otherwise you prune flower buds off and reduce the abundance of flowers that spring.

For certain species such as maples and birches, I would trim these in the summer to minimize sap oozing or ‘bleeding’.

Pruning during full leaf is fine, but dormant season is probably still best for tree health.

By Faith Appelquist, University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener, Dakota County

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Month Before Spring by Gail Maifeld

T’was a month before spring
Ground covered with snow
Cardinal and Chickadees to feeders must go
And Voles munch under the snow.
My eyes had grown dull
Reruns and Netflix has lost any glow
When my eyes fell to my watch
2:45- time to get up and go.
With deliberate effort I bundled up
Temperatures had fallen well below.
Open the door, breath in, look up
Gently guiding my feet outward to my goal.
Flip open the flap, insert a gloved hand
Extract a bundle and hear kerplop
A bright glossy patch reflects in the snow
Like a promise of something new to unfold.
What to my inquiring eye should appear?
Oh joy! A seed catalog!
I drew the bold words near
“Colorful Companions of nonstop Beauty” foretold.
Energizing my step and lengthening my stride
Quickly to the house I sped.
While visions of Calibrachoa and petunias
Danced in my head.
Hmmm – what color for pots? New bed?
Lemon Sorbet or new zinnia seeds
All forecast for perfection
If planted IPM!
The teapot now empty ; the catalog spent
My gaze drifted outside to snow covered beds
While a little voice whispered Take Heart!
Spring is ahead.
Posted in Spring Flowers, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bring on Spring!

After last week’s blizzard and snow along with the new snow today, I’m looking forward to spring.   Seed and flower catalogues, garden design magazines and spring garden expos are the bridge to get me from January to the arrival of spring.

Garden expos are great places to learn from professionals and other gardeners.  The University of Minnesota Master Gardeners of Dakota County to kick off the 2014 gardening season with Let’s Get Growing on Saturday, March 8 at the Rosemount Community Center!

This event is for gardeners of all skill levels interested in home gardening.  Participants attend two morning sessions and listen to a keynote speaker in the early afternoon.  The event also features breakfast treats, lunch, a silent auction, a raffle, and garden-related products for sale.  Bring a friend and enjoy learning from expert gardeners on a variety of relevant topics.

Emily Tepe

Keynote.  There’s Food in My Flower Garden!  U of M horticulturist and author Emily Tepe will inspire you to look at fruits and vegetables in a whole new light.  You will discover how fun and easy it is to incorporate edible plants into your landscape right alongside ornamental plants.  You’re guaranteed to come away with some great ideas for making your yard more productive, beautiful and delicious!  Emily has channeled her enthusiasm for combining edible and ornamental plants into her book, The Edible Landscape.


Session 1 Classes

Carolyn HarstadClass #1  Got Sun?  Got Shade?  Go Native!  Author Carolyn Harstad will share her experience and research on the best native plants for sun and shade.  She also considers color, wildlife, birds, butterflies and the environment to help you create a well-balanced garden of native plants.

Carolyn has written three gardening books including her latest titled Got Sun? 200 Best Native Plants for Your Garden.  She has been a Master Gardener for over 20 years and is a member of the National Gardener Writers Association.

Josh Kielsmeier-CookClass #2  Growing Healthy VegetablesGrowing vegetables doesn’t have to be a challenge. Josh Kielsmeier-Cook will present the basic principles of good gardening and management of plant diseases.  You’ll learn how to start a garden and the good gardening practices that end in a great harvest.

Josh is a second year Master’s student in Plan Pathology at the University of Minnesota.  He worked three seasons at Big River Farms, a program of Minnesota Food Association.  As production manager, Josh oversaw production including greenhouse and field production, harvest, and farm fertility. 

Kathy SurridgeClass #3  Winter Seed Sowing in Milk JugsYou can start your garden outside now using milk jugs. Kathy Surridge will provide techniques, planting dates and care tips.  Every participant will plant and take home two seeded containers. Please add an additional $12 materials fee to your registration.

Kathy was an educator for 16 years and a Master Gardener for four years.  She has planted using square foot and straw bale vegetable gardens.  For the past three years, she has been winter sowing perennial and vegetable plants.

Rebecca Koetter (700x800)Class #4  Romancing the Stone FruitsA love affair with fruit has its allure and pitfalls; Rebecca Koetter has suggestions to help you get the most out of that romance.  She’ll give an introductory look into woody edibles and the five common features unique to each featured fruit.  Sounds delicious!

Rebecca has a Masters degree in Horticulture from the University of Minnesota.  She is currently a landscape consultant with Sweetscapes, grower edible trees and shrubs.

Session 2 Classes

Dr. Jean Larson (533x800)Class #5  The Nature-Health Connection.  Dr. Jean Larson says you can improve the quality of your life through simple choices in your home environment.  She’ll explain the application and healing power of Nature Based Therapeutics through interactions with plants and the environment.

Dr. Larson is an Assistant Professor for the Center of Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota, and manager of the Nature-based Therapeutic Services at the Arboretum.  She is also a registered horticulture therapist.

Faith AppelquistClass #6  Landscaping for Curb AppealMake a great first impression with a front yard that is stress free and inviting.  Faith Appelquist will present the basics of landscape design, from simplicity to repetition.  Participants will learn how to accentuate the front door while de-emphasizing the garage.  Join her to learn simple techniques to create the front yard that will give your guests the best first impressions possible. 

Faith is a Master Gardener, ISA Board certified Master arborist, and president of Tree Quality, an Apple Valley based business.  She specializes in landscape design, tree evaluation and management.

Class #7  Square Foot Gardening.  If you’re short on space or have poor soil, John Zweber has a solution.  He’ll share the basics of square foot gardening and ways to get the most out of small spaces. Recipes for soil mixtures as well as spacing for common vegetables will be provided.

John is a Master Gardener and a certified Square Foot Gardener.  During the 2014 summer, he will be a teacher and consultant at Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville.

JoAnne SabinClass #8  Create an Herb Bowl.  Learn all about herbs and plant your own herb garden under the direction of JoAnne Sabin. Containers, soil, and plants will be provided. You’ll leave with an herb garden, recipes and great information on herbs. *Please add a $12 materials fee to your registration.

JoAnne is a Master Gardener and has taught several classes.  

To complete your registration, download the LGG brochure, select session classes, and mail with  payment to the address listed in the brochure.  Join us to learn valuable information for 2014 gardening!


Posted in Edible Landscape, Events, Fruits, Herbs, Home Landscape, Natives, Vegetable gardening | Leave a comment

Plan now for a Colorful Spring with Bulbs!

by Lee Kaibel

As we enjoy late blooms and foliage in the last few warm weeks ahead, many gardeners find fall is the time of year to reflect on the summer and the beauty of their garden.  Or, for some it is the time to plan fall clean-up chores that will need to be done as the season changes.  But for many of us this is the time of year excitement creeps in thinking about the next season – making additions, starting fresh, changing colors, and preparation to plant your spring bulbs.

If you want to have that burst of color in the spring from plants such as Crocus, Hyacinths, Tulips and Daffodils now is the time to pick your colors and plant your bulbs. Mid-September to mid- October is the optimal time to get your spring bulb planting done in Minnesota. Cool nights and warm days, along with ample moisture are the ideal conditions needed to get bulbs started.

The bulb world allows much to explore for both seasoned and fresh start gardeners.  Use bulbs to:

  • bring early color
  • expand your textures and
  • mingle with contrasts or harmony

Bulbs are versatile.  There is no limit to the number of places bulbs can be planted:

  • for gardeners who like to start fresh every year, plant bulbs annuals and till them  in to the soil after the blooms have faded
  • many bulbs return year after year if you are a gardener who likes consistency
  • bulbs pop in glorious color as spring emerges when planted in a naturalized setting or scattered throughout your lawn
  • planting spring bulbs in your rock gardens will bring soft colors to the hardscape
  • don’t be afraid to plant bulbs under trees that are shaded in the summer – because the trees have no leaves in the spring most bulbs will get enough sun to come back next year long before the leaves emerge
  • planted along walkways and as borders
  • in mass-plantings from a small group of 5 to 10 bulbs to a large group of hundreds of bulbs

What do bulbs need?

  • well-drained soil and
  • a lot of sun

Popular, easy to grow spring bulbs include:

  • Crocus, Zone 3 to 9. Crocus are the first to bloom, most often in April and will continue to bloom even when hit with a late spring snow. Plants get 4 to 6 inches tall.  Plant bulbs about 3 to 4 inches into the ground and cover with about 2 inches of mulch. Make sure you plant in well-drained soil or bulbs will rot.  Immediately after planting make sure to water bulbs. Fertilize into soil surface in spring after bulbs have bloomed and before foliage has yellowed.  Crocus are a brilliant yellow, white or purple.


  • Hyacinths, Zone 4 to 8. Hyacinths will bloom shortly after Crocus in mid to late April depending on soil temperature and location of the bulbs. Plants get about 8 to 10 inches tall.  Plant bulbs about 6 to 8 inches into the ground and cover with about 2 inches of mulch. These bulbs should be planted in well-drained soil and watered after planting. Fertilize into soil surface in spring after bulb has bloomed and before foliage has yellowed.  Hyacinths come in beautiful colors and have a great fragrance.


  • Daffodils, Zone 3 to 8. Daffodils will bloom from April to May. Plants will get about 12 to 20 in height. Plant bulbs about 6 to 8 inches in ground and cover with about 2 inches of mulch. Be sure to plant in well-drained soil and water in bulbs after planting. Fertilize into soil surface in spring after bulb has bloomed and before foliage has yellowed. Daffodils will naturalize open wooded areas. Daffodils are deer resistant.


  • Tulips, Zone 3 to 8. Tulips will bloom from April to June depending on if they are early, mid or late. Plant will get about 12 to 24 inches tall. Plant bulbs about 6 to 8 inches in ground and cover with 2 inches of mulch. Do plant in well-drained soil. Do water in bulbs after planting. Fertilize into soil surface in spring after bulb has bloomed and before foliage has yellowed. Tulips come in a rainbow of colors and have a large variation of flower shapes.


Give your garden a jump start in the spring by planting spring bulbs this fall.

Posted in Home Landscape, Spring Flowers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Healthy Vegetables

Josh Kielsmeier, University of Minnesota graduate student under Michelle Grabowski, presented an enlightening garden talk and walk titled “Growing Healthy Vegetables” on the evening of August 13 to twenty gardeners at the South St. Paul/First Presbyterian Church Community Garden.  Class participants included Master Gardeners of Dakota County involved in the Vegetable Seed Trial Garden and community gardeners who have personal plots at the site.  Josh talked to the group about ways to grow healthy vegetables, and he divided his talk into two main topics including “Starting Out Right” and “Managing Disease Throughout The Season.” Highlights from the talk included the following points:

  •  Start out with healthy seeds.  One can do this by getting seeds at reliable places and by planting seeds and plants with resistance to disease.
  • Clean tools, trellises, cages, and garden resources with a 10% bleach solution to avoid disease issues.
  • Seedlings should be moist but not wet, do not over or under water.
  • Rotate crops when possible.
  • Powdery mildew is a common problem, and it most likely comes as an airborne disease from the south.  It has to live on a live host.  Sulfur spray produces work if they applied when a plant is first infected.
  • Scout for disease problems on a regular basis.  Examine leaves  both on top and lower parts of a plant.  Check under side as well.
  • Protect plants from disease by giving them trellis supports to get air.  Prune tomato plants early.  Weeds can harbor disease!
  • Prune out bacteria spots on tomato leaves and take leaves out of the garden.
  • There are no pesticides that will prevent diseases caused by viruses and phytoplasmas.
  • Take care when using pesticides.  Use the right product for the right plant.  Read the label.  Some are very toxic!

After the talk, Josh walked through the garden and showed the class some of the disease issues found in different plots.  He suggested remedies and how to avoid some of the problems in the future.  He also assured the group that problems should be expected.  Some garden problems can be avoided or remedied, others are just part of the expected gardening experience.

South St. Paul Vegetable Garden Class Participants

Although this class was limited to 20 participants due to the space and nature of the class, gardeners can look forward to hearing Josh as a speaker at our 2014 Let’s Get Growing event on Saturday, March 8.

Posted in Edible Landscape, Vegetable gardening | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Native Trees – A Good Choice for the Home Landscape

By Sue Light, Master Gardener in Dakota County

Are you among the growing number of Dakota County gardeners who are helping the environment by selecting plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife?  Many gardeners are planting native plants such as purple coneflower, echinacea, hyssop and milkweed.  Native plants usually are the best for native pollinator habitat and offer the following additional benefits.  They generally:

  •  Do not require fertilizers
  • Require fewer pesticides, if any, for maintenance
  • Require less water than non native plants
  • Promote local native biological diversity

In addition to garden perennials, there are many native trees that also offer these benefits and attract many kinds of wildlife.

Of course a tree is a more permanent addition to your landscape than are perennial flowers and grasses so you will want to consider many factors when selecting the right tree to plant.

  •  How close are any buildings, streets, sidewalks and driveways
  • What kind of soil do you have
  • How much light does the site receive
  • How will the new tree impact activities in your yard
  • What kind of wildlife will this tree attract

 The following is a list of native trees and the wildlife they attract.

Bur Oak  This is one of the best native trees in the midwest for attracting wildlife.  96 to 100 species of wildlife are reported to use this tree for habitat and as a source of food.  It attracts butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife.  It grows 60-80 ft. tall and 40-80 ft. wide.  It grows in full sun.

Hackberry  This tree produces a small berry that ripens in the fall that birds love.  I have one planted near my deck and enjoy watching birds climb up and down the furrowed bark looking for insects.  These birds include nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers and even warblers stop by in the spring and fall.  The Hackberry is also a larval host to several butterflies and moths including the mourning cloak.  Like the Bur Oak it is a large tree growing to about 60 ft. tall.  It is drought tolerant.

Hackberry Bark


Common Serviceberry  (also called Juneberry)  This can be either a single or multi-stemmed tree that grows to 15-25 ft. tall and as wide.  It can be grown in full sun to part shade.  I have three of these in my yard because in the spring it is one of the earliest trees to flower.  The delicate looking flowers are a lovely white followed by reddish purple fruit.  The birds find this fruit immediately.  This year robins visited the trees daily to eat the fruit.   Catbirds, chickadees and cedar waxwings were also frequent visitors.

Pagoda Dogwood  If you are looking for a tree that will grow in partial shade or shade this small tree is worth considering.  It is a beautifully shaped tree that has a flat-topped crown with horizontal layers of branches.  It can be grown as a multi-stemmed shrub or a single stemmed small tree.  It grows 15-25 ft. tall and about as wide.   It produces white flowers in the spring and the berries, which are ripe in the summer, are devoured by birds.  It also attracts grouse, pheasants, turkeys and squirrels.  It is a larval host for the Spring Azure butterfly.

American Mountain Ash  This is another good tree for attracting wildlife.  It grows in full sun to part shade to about 30 ft. tall and 15-25 ft. wide.  The orange fruits stay on the tree all winter and provides a critical food source for many migrating bird species.  The fruits are a good source of iron and vitamin C for the birds.  It is recognized by pollination ecologists as a good tree to attract native bees.

Witch Hazel  This is really a large shrub growing to 12 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide.  It does best in full or part sun.  It looks great in the fall because of the yellow flowers and brilliant gold fall foliage.  The small brown fruit of this tree attracts birds.

American Hornbeam also known as Ironwood Tree  This tree does best as an understory tree and is extremely tolerant of shade.    It grows to 30-45 ft. tall and 20-30 ft. wide.  The hop like fruit may stay on the tree through the autumn and winter.  It attracts birds and butterflies.  It is a larval host to the Easter Tiger Swallowtail, Tiger swallow-tail, Red-spotted Purple and the Striped hairstreak butterflies.

American Hornbeam

You can see all of these trees as well as many other native trees at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Two good resources for learning more about Minnesota Native Trees are:

1.  Henderson, Carrol L., “Landscaping for Wildlife” 1994  Published by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

2.   Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center  This site has a native plant data base of almost 8,000 plants.


Posted in Attracting Wildlife, Home Landscape, Natives, Trees | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Soar Like a Butterfly

By Gail Maifeld – Children’s Garden Chair Person

Have you envied the delicate butterfly as is gracefully flutters about the bright blooms in the garden?  The 2013 Dakota County Master Gardener’s Children’s Garden theme this year is Integrated Butterfly.  Three butterfly shaped gardens allow the visitor to escape the earth and soar like a butterfly.  Just recline, in the space provided, in a prone position, extend your arms above your head for antenna, and let your imagination take flight.

The Interactive Butterfly

Yellow zinnias, Fire Profusion zinnias, orange and yellow marigolds and Dark Opal Basil are the annuals planted in a shape to resemble a Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch spends the summer in Minnesota frequenting zinnias, phlox, lantana, coneflower, and other vibrant colored flowers for nectar.  Butterflies require a large flower to land on since they cannot hover.  The butterfly then unrolls the proboscis (long tongue) to reach deep into the bloom for nectar.  Three to four generations of Monarchs hatch each season on common milkweed.  The caterpillar eats only milkweed until it spins a cocoon.  Ten–fourteen days later a butterfly emerges to begin the cycle again.

The last generation of Monarchs is a marvel of nature.  This butterfly has the instinct to migrate hundreds of miles to the forested mountains of Mexico.  Here the butterfly attaches itself to a tree branch to wait for spring and the migration north.  This butterfly flies to areas in Texas, lays eggs on the common milkweed plant and dies, completing a unique cycle of nature.  Relax into the Monarch Butterfly shaped garden and take flight.

Butterfly Patterned after a Monarch Butterfly


Mourning Cloak Butterfly garden is represented by Red Ruffles Coleus, Rustic Orange Coleus, Dark Chocolate Coleus, White Alyssum, Blue Ageratum, and Dark Opal Basil.  The coleuses are recently developed sun loving varieties.  The basil can be picked for eating.  This garden captures the subtle dark brownish red wings edged with blue and white spots on top and green spots underneath.  The coleus leaves give depth and texture to this garden.

Mourning Cloak butterfly is a harbinger of spring.  This butterfly does not hibernate, but emerges from under overhangs and trees when the sap begins to run in Red Maple, Green Hawthorne and American elm,  trees that provide habitat for the Mourning Cloak.  Tree sap provides nectar until plants such as the common milkweed and bull thistle grow. A large butterfly with a wingspan of up to 3.5 inches, it lays pale yellow eggs under the host trees’ leaves.  The adult’s wing edges have a ragged appearance that is a camouflage from predators.  Mourning Cloak’s fly until hot summer days then find shelter in host trees until the cooler days of September arrive.  Stretch out with this unique Minnesota butterfly in the garden.

Mourning Cloak Pattern Butterfly

Moss Roses create a carnival of colored flowers for the third butterfly shaped garden.  The sun loving drought tolerant succulent offers a special texture to the garden. This unique garden plan rewards the gardener with abundant orange, yellow, pink and purple effervescent blooms.  The blooms actually close at night and on sunless days.  Become a part of this glowing garden butterfly.

Moss Rose – Random Color Butterfly

The Gazebo will sport a hanging gauze shroud to imitate the cocoon butterfly caterpillars spin.  This cocoon or chrysalis protects the pupa stage of a butterflies’ development.  Wrap your self in the feathery fabric as a caterpillar does in preparation to become a butterfly.

The Children’s Garden is located next to the big Red Barn on the Dakota County Fair Grounds.  Signage will provide facts and trivia of the Monarch and Mourning Cloak Butterflies.  Signs will also direct the garden browser how to interact in the Integrated Butterfly Garden.  Stretch your arms for antenna or select a butterfly activity sheet at the picnic table.  Either choice will enhance your knowledge and let you soar like a butterfly.

The Dakota County Fair runs from August 5 – 11, 2013.

Posted in Butterfly Garden, Children's Garden | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Make Your Landscape Delicious

About the author: Joy Hayes is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys gardening with her family. She especially enjoys growing edibles in her woodland, hillside and vegetable gardens. Producing and purchasing locally-grown foods is important to her and her family.

I am a big fan of the  book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle  by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s a humorous story about how a family “vows to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.” It makes a “passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life …” Michael Pollen has a new book Cooked out in which he encourages less processed “food-like substances” and more whole foods that we take time to prepare as a family. Both books are about literally getting back to our “roots” and preparing locally grown vegetables and fruits. Even better yet, we can grow our own like Barbara’s family did.

If you are not sure about growing your own vegetables and fruits (or want to expand), you can easily add a few plants to your existing gardens and begin to transform them into edible landscapes. Here are a few of my favorite perennials that can make any landscape deliciously edible.

American Hazelnut (Corylus Americana).

This shrub grows in full or part shade, is low maintenance, has showy flowers, has good fall color, tolerates clay soil, can be used as a hedge and has edible nuts.

American Hazelnut – Photo Credit: Joy Hayes

Red Currant (Ribes rubrum ‘Redlake’)

Red Currant is one of my favorite shrubs in my garden. It keeps its shape and produces clusters of shiny red berries that we make into raspberry currant jam.

Red Currant – Photo Credit: Joy Hayes

Woodland Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)   

I enjoy all kinds of strawberries but woodland strawberries are especially nice because they fit well in most landscapes. One important feature is that they stay in nice clumps and do not send out runners.

Woodland Strawberries and Creeping Thyme – Photo Credit: Joy Hayes

Culinary thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and for a great groundcover—creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum coccineus)

I like thyme because it’s delicious fresh or dried in many dishes and the “creeping” type is a great groundcover.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives are great fresh or dried. I put them in potato and egg salad and roasted vegetable dishes. If you pick the buds before they blossom you can add them to recipes as well.

Jersey Knight Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis ‘Jersey Knight’)

Asparagus takes a few years to establish but it’s worth the wait since it’s the first vegetable to produce in the spring. The tender shoots are great raw or roasted. Just add olive oil, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper and grill them up!

North Star Cherry (Prunus ‘North Star’ dwarf)

This sour cherry is a dwarf fruit tree which would fit into any landscape, especially smaller spaces. It has white cherry blossoms and is self-pollinating. It was bred at the U of MN and is very hardy.

North Star Cherry – Photo Credit: Joy Hayes

Begin by putting a few edible perennials in unexpected places in your landscape. Those who enjoy your garden may be surprised and ask you about it. You can then share with them the many benefits of growing edibles. You and your family will also experience how fun it is to walk out to the garden and pick something fresh for your table. It doesn’t get any more delicious than that!

Still not convinced?  There are many good reasons for growing our own produce:

  • It is fresh. It’s fun eating our own hand-picked vegetables, fruit and herbs! By mid-June and we enjoyed lettuce, radishes, strawberries, basil and garlic scapes from our garden this week. We made pesto and tomato (Minnesota-grown Bushel Boy, no garden fresh yet!) open face sandwiches, strawberry pie with chocolate-coated crust, strawberry and cookies ‘n cream shakes and grilled chicken salads, strawberry salads, and more salads!
  • If we grow it ourselves, we know how it was grown (preferably organically, sustainably and with few chemicals). We can use our own compost from food scrapes and yard waste (non-herbicide treated) so nutrients stay in our yards rather than going to the landfill.
  • Growing our own produce has less of an environmental impact because the produce does not travel across the country. Most fruits and vegetables are transported over 2000 miles in refrigerated trucks to get to us. Some are picked before they are ripe and then chemically ripened.
  • Growing locally preserves our green space. According to the University of Delaware Extension (Bulletin #137), the mental health benefits of green space include: stress and violence reduction and improved concentration. The physical benefits include: enhanced health, more rapid healing and improved environmental conditions, such as better air and water quality and a reduction in the “heat island effect.” I was amazed by all the positive effects on children which include alleviating symptoms of Attention Deficient/Hyperactivity Disorder, improving self-discipline among inner city girls, including enhanced concentration, inhibition of impulsive behavior, and delay of gratification. Children who play in green spaces demonstrate increased ability to concentrate, complete tasks, and follow directions.
  • Children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they’ve help plant, water, care for and harvest them.
  • Growing food ourselves gives us (and our children) an increased appreciation for where our food comes from and gives us a sense of pride.
  • We can build community by sharing with our family, friends and neighbors.

Enjoy your edible garden!

Posted in Edible Landscape, Perennials | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Hot Annuals for a Cool Spring

 A bit about the author:  Julie Harris has been a Master Gardener for several years and has led various flower trial gardens at the Master Gardener Education, Research and Display Gardens, at the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC).  She has held leadership positions in the Master Gardener program and has participated in a number of other outreach activities.

It is finally warm enough to allow your tender annuals to venture outside.  Time to visualize your garden color schemes and choose the ‘thrillers, spillers and fillers’ that will become your fabulous container displays.  Looking for inspiration?  For great information about annuals that will prosper in Minnesota, take a look at  If you still like the feel of paper in your fingers, check out Annuals for Minnesota and Wisconsin by Don Engebretson and Don Williamson

The All-America Selections (AAS) website is another  online resource for great new annuals.  This organization tests new annuals at trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada.  Each year, judges score the new varieties on qualities such as novel colors, length of flowering, disease or pest resistance and overall performance.  Only those varieties that achieve a superior score are declared AAS winners.  The All-America Selections organization has named its 2013 award winners.  Pictures can be found on the website above for the next four plants.

Canna “South Pacific Scarlet’ is grown from seed and is more vigorous and uniform than other canna varieties.  It grows 24inches tall and wide with showy orange 4 ½ inch blooms.

Can there ever be too many geraniums?  Not if they continue to develop winners like Geranium Pinto Premium ‘White to Rose.’  This plant grows 12 inches tall and wide.  The numerous blooms start out white then deepen to rose-pink.

Zinnias have been frequent AAS Winners lately.  The newest winners are Zinnia Profusion ‘Double Hot Cherry’ and Profusion ‘Double Deep Salmon.’  The flowers have double petals, on 3 inch blooms.  The plants stand 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

During the summer of 2012, the Master Gardeners of Dakota County chose several AAS award winners to display and trial in our education, research and display garden at the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC) in Rosemount.  Master Gardeners grew and observed these plants over the summer to see how AAS winners perform in our neighborhood.  Check out these standouts:

Cleome Sparkler ‘Blush’ is a 2002 AAS winner.  At 20-36 inches tall, this airy plant is shorter but sturdier than many Cleomes and sports abundant pink blooms.

Cleome Sparkler ‘Blush’

‘Purple Majesty’ Millet’ is a 2003 AAS Winner whose green leaves turn to purple in the sun.  It grows an impressive 3-5 feet tall and offers 8-12 inch flower stalks.  Hint – look for a new ornamental millet– ‘Jade Princess.’  We trialed this fabulous new millet developed by Ball Horticultural Company.  It is a little shorter than its purple cousin at 26 inches tall but it has bright, lime green foliage and thick, fuzzy stalks that are just fun.

Ornamental Millet Jade Princess 2

Tithonia ‘Fiesta Del Sol’ is a unique 2000 AAS Winner.  It stands 2-3 feet tall and is topped by 2-3 inch orange daisy-like blooms.  This tall plant is sturdy and its hairy foliage discourages hungry deer.

Tithonia ‘Fiesta Del Sol’


Vinca ‘Jams & Jellies Blackberry’ is a 2012 AAS Winner.  This bushy plant grew 12 inches tall in our garden and features flower petals that are a velvety deep purple with a white eye.

Vinca Jams & Jellies Blackberry

Enjoy filling your yards and gardens with beautiful, colorful annuals!

The mission of the Master Gardener program is to teach others in the community about horticulture.  In Dakota County, there are more than 130 active Master Gardeners who volunteer several thousand hours per year.

Visit the Master Gardeners of Dakota County website for additional gardening tips, information on upcoming events and classes.

University of Minnesota Extension shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this publication/material is available in alternative formats upon direct request to (651) 480-7700.



Posted in Annuals, Spring Flowers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Myths and Facts about Iris

A few words about the author:  Lee Kaibel is a Dakota County Master Gardener who has lead the iris committee.  


Tang Fizz



 Myth – I do not grow Iris because they have a short bloom time.

Fact – By using different types of Iris you can lengthen the amount of time that irises will be blooming in your garden. Miniature dwarf beards and crested iris bloom in early May followed by the rest of the bearded iris cultivars which bloom the full month of May. Next in bloom is the Siberian Iris which blooms in early June and is followed by Yellow flag iris, Blue flag iris and Japanese iris which all bloom in mid- June.  By using different types of iris you can have about six weeks of bloom time.


Myth – Are there really Iris borers?  I have not seen any on my bearded iris, what do they look like?

Fact – Iris borers are very destructive as they feed on the iris rhizome. They can destroy   all or part of a rhizome by introducing bacteria and causing soft rot in the rhizome as they feed.  Clean up all debris in the fall as that is where the Iris borers

Iris Borer

For more information on Iris Borers and how to manage them use this link:

Myth – I lost some bearded iris last winter they must have not been hardy for zone four.

Fact – Winter loses are not due to cold temps. The rhizomes sit right at the top of the soil line.  This will expose the rhizome to the wind if there is no mulch or snow covering it. The rhizome will die from the wind dehydrating it.  Blue flag irises which are native to Minnesota are so hardy they can freeze into the ice on lakes or ponds and still survive the winter.

For more details on  types of iris, heights, bloom times and colors check this link:

Remember to enjoy these spring blooming beauties they need to be planted August – November the year before.

Posted in Iris, Iris Borer, Spring Flowers | Leave a comment

Correction: Get Your Garden Started – With or Without Spring

After much consideration, great reluctance and three days of snow in May,  the decision was made to postpone the Master Gardener  Plant Sale  mentioned in Connie’s original article until June 1st.   

The  Master Gardeners of Dakota County  annual plant sale will be held on Saturday, June 1, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. You’ll enjoy professional advice and plenty of elbow room at the Master Gardener Education and Research Display Garden at UMore Park in Rosemount.

Come on Spring!

Posted in Gardens at UMore, Perennials, Plant Sale | Tagged | Leave a comment

Connie Kotke found her passion for gardening ten years ago, when she purchased a home with a “wooded” backyard filled with buckthorn. Her labor of love has been clearing and re-establishing a natural habitat in the shade of many hundred-year-old Bur oaks. Her specialty is creating peaceful environments with the right mix of planned and unplanned scenes. She’s an avid reader, writer and professional communicator. As an independent consultant, she’s free to devote time to what she loves the most—getting her hands dirty.

I just finished reading (again) the classic novel, Giants in the Earth, by O. E. Rolvaag. The story recalls the tenacity and courage of Norwegian immigrants who were pioneers on the prairies of Dakota Territory in the mid-1800s. This week, as I snuggled under my quilt and occasionally glanced out the window at the snow and gray skies, I read the chapter about Per Hansa and his family’s first year living in a sod hut. “During the winter, it snowed twice forty days. Day and night the snow fell. From the 15th of October…until after the middle of April, it seldom ceased. And all winter the sun stayed in his house; he crept out only now and then to pack down the snow; that was to make room for more.”

Despite our own long winter, at least we have comfortable homes and warm cars to navigate daily living. By way of this blog post, I vote for a group therapy session to raise our spirits and renew our optimism for the growing season ahead. Let’s get started:

1) Take action! If you’re down in the dumps like so many of us, there’s no better way to lift your spirits than to give back even a sliver of the blessings you enjoy. The week of April 21 – 27 is chock-full of opportunities to brighten someone’s day. Join in with your friends and neighbors to celebrate National Earth Day (Monday, 4/22), National Arbor Day (Friday, 4/26) or National Volunteer Week. Doing even small things will put that smile back on your face. Find ideas at

2) Start planning! Eventually, the last snow drift in the yard will melt away. Is this the year to create an outdoor environment that’s perfect for you and your family? Now’s the time to read, ponder and sketch. Visit these U of M sites for new ideas on

Garden Sculpture – Photo Credit: Connit Kotke

3) Create your shopping list! If tradition holds, mid-May is the time when garden centers really start bustling. Make your first stop the Master Gardeners of Dakota County annual plant sale on Saturday, May 11, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. You’ll enjoy professional advice and plenty of elbow room at the Master Gardener Education and Research Display Garden at UMore Park in Rosemount.

Most importantly, resist the urge to grab your rake and begin the cleanup on our first warm day. Grass, bulbs and perennials are still tender; the soil is too moist; and we run the risk of overnight freezing for several weeks yet. Simply put on your boots, wander the yard, listen to the world waking up, and dream.

Posted on by DakotaMGs | Leave a comment

Let’s Get Growing – 2013 Spring Garden Expo

Is your inner gardener tired of the ‘off season’?

Mark your calendars to start the 2013 Gardening Season March 9, 2013 and step in to spring.

The 2013 Spring Expo “Let’s Get Growing” sponsored by the University of Minnesota Master Gardeners in Dakota County will be held on Saturday, March 9, at the newly renovated Rosemount Community Center in Rosemount, Minnesota.  Doors open at 8:00 a.m. to registered participants who will enjoy a full day of gardening education and activities including a continental breakfast, door prizes, a silent auction, catered box lunch, and a garden marketplace (cash and checks only). Each participant will receive a folder and bag full of coupons, horticultural information, notebook, pen, and more at the registration tables starting at 8:00 a.m.

Keynote Speaker Lynn Steiner, local author, will present  “Landscaping with Native Plants: Effective and Acceptable Ways to Use Natives in Gardens and Landscapes.”

Breakout Sessions Include:

  • “Sensory Gardens” with Starla and Alice Enger, owners of  My Sister’s Garden Center
  • “Made in the Shade” with Mike Heger, owner of Amergate Gardens
  • “Sustainable Lawns” with Sam Bauer, University of Minnesota Extension Turfgrass Educator
  • “Blueberries: Secret Super Fruits” with Tori Clark and Brenda Scheer, Master Gardeners
  • “Healthy Soils for Great Gardens” with Bob Mugaas,  retired University of Minnesota Horticulture Extension educator and current Horticulturalist and Garden Program Director for the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center
  •  “Flower Power” with Julie Harris,  Master Gardeners in Dakota County Chair and All-American Flower Garden research leader
  •  “Welcome Wildlife” with Corinne Johnson, Master Gardener and Naturalist
  • “Salad Bowl” a hands on course with JoAnne Sabin, Master Gardener

For more information on “Let’s Get Growing” speakers and vendors and to download registration forms, please visit our blog at .  Information can also be found at our newly developed website at .

Posted in Annuals, Blueberries, Education | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Still Gardening in October? Yes I am!

There’s still time to prepare for a beautiful spring garden and healthy lawn.  Here are a few things you can do yet this fall to improve your garden next year.

  •  Plant spring bulbs!   Yes there is still time to plant spring blooming bulbs.  Most spring bulbs can be planted right up until the ground freezes.    Stagger the bloom times for ongoing color.
  1. Early bloomers – have you grown Siberian Squill, Grape Hyacinth or Snowdrops?
  2. Mid-spring bloomers – iris, tulips and daffodils can all be planted right up until the ground freezes.

    Photo Credit: Brenda Scheer

3.   Late blooming spring bulbs –Allium

  • Clean up and dispose of any diseased plant debris.  This will minimize the chances of the disease over wintering and returning next year.
  • Pick up leaves from your yard.  Leaf build up helps trap moisture between the leaves and the lawn creating a favorable environment for snow mold.

Photo Credit: Brenda Scheer

  • Water your trees and shrubs up until the ground freezes.  It’s been very dry.  Lack of water puts stress on trees and shrubs.    Provide slow deep watering to trees and shrubs for best results.
  •  Consider leaving ornamental grasses standing for winter interest.
  • Think about what worked well and where you want to focus your efforts in your garden next year.   When winter comes you can start making plans for your spring garden tasks.

Check out the Yard and Garden News for monthly tips on yard and garden care:

The mission of the Master Gardener program is to teach others in the community about horticulture.  In Dakota County, there are more than 130 active Master Gardeners who volunteer several thousand hours per year.

Visit the Master Gardeners of Dakota County website for additional gardening tips, information on our Research and Display Garden, the Junior Master Gardener Program, as well as upcoming events and classes.

University of Minnesota Extension shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this publication/material is available in alternative formats upon direct request to (651) 480-7700.

Posted in Education | Tagged | Leave a comment

Try Something Magical – Fairy Gardens

A bit about our author:  Mary Schmidt is a Dakota County Master Gardener always looking to learn something new.   After taking a class on Fairy Gardens this summer, she shared here some of what she learned.

Fairy Gardens are unique and magical gardens.  These gardens can be indoor or outdoor container gardens or an actual in-ground garden.  A Fairy Garden is a miniature garden complete with structures and living plants.  The garden is designed to lure fairies; and with them, good luck, to your home.

Fairy Gardens include:

  • special small-sized plants
  •  tiny cottages
  •  arbors
  •  stone pebbles or miniature slate stepping stones
  • mushrooms
  •  numerous  decorations and of course a
  •  delightful fairy figure

Photo Credit: Mary Schmidt

Tiny fairies who live in gardens have a code to always be cheerful, neat, polite, friendly, work hard, generous, honest, keep secrets, kind and humorous.  Who wouldn’t want someone with these qualities living in their garden?


The mission of the Master Gardener program is to teach others in the community about horticulture.  In Dakota County, there are more than 130 active Master Gardeners who volunteer several thousand hours per year.

Visit the Master Gardeners of Dakota County website for additional gardening tips, information on our Research and Display Garden, the Junior Master Gardener Program, as well as upcoming events and classes.

University of Minnesota Extension shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this publication/material is available in alternative formats upon direct request to (651) 480-7700.



Posted in Education, Fairy Garden | Tagged | Leave a comment

Pizza Garden

Pizza Garden

A bit about the author:  Gail Maifeld is an active Master Gardener with a background in education.  Gail has been the chair of the Children’s Garden for several years. 

 Kid friendly gardening for food, discovery, and joy of learning is an underestimated source of education and exercise.  Why not create a garden that will provide a kid friendly favorite meal?  A Pizza Garden planted with vegetables and herbs is such a garden.  Pizza Garden is the theme of the 2012 Children’s Garden located next to the big red barn on the Dakota County Fairgrounds.

The garden looks like a pizza!  This garden is not planted in rows but in a 5 foot circle that is divided into four equal parts.  Lemon drop marigolds outline the circle and each of the four slices.  Within each slice are four plants: Sweet Basil, Oregano, a pepper, and a Roma Tomato.  The bright yellow marigold blooms are a colorful definition for the Pizza shape.

Photo Credit: Gail Mailfeld

For the hot and spicy taste buds, a circle of peppers has also been planted with:

  • Hot Chili
  • Burning Bush
  • Jalapeno
  • Hot Savory
  • Cayenne peppers

Milder flavored peppers are also planted in the garden including:

  • Orange Blaze Sweet Pepper
  • Sweet Banana
  • California Wonder

The yellow, green, red and orange colorful vegetables, each with their unique slender or orb type shape add intrigue.  These additional choices allow for individualism and the discovery of the taste bud.

Photo Credit: Gail Maifeld

The third garden section is planted with six tomato varieties:

  • Big Boy
  • Beefsteak
  • Sweet 100
  • Early Girl
  • Grande Verde Tomatillo
  • Chocolate Cherry

Chocolate Cherry is dark brown –black in color.  Grande Verde Tomatillo has a husk and green in color.  All of the tomatoes vary in size, yield, and time of harvest.  Children can discover different textures, juiciness, and shape from these different varieties.

A photo opportunity is also available.  The gazebo structure will be decked out as a Pizza Shack accompanied by a Pizza Chef cutout.  Openings in the cutout allow for a head to poke out, which makes a cute photograph.  This bit of whimsy is always a hit with fair goers.  Past photo opps are said to have been included in many Christmas letters.

Photo Credit: Brenda Scheer

Whatever the pizza taste- hot peppers or sweet peppers, cherry tomato or juicy slice accompanied by a savory herb like Sweet Basil or Oregano- the pizza styles are endless.  The garden photo will be priceless, too.  Participants will discover their personal taste preferences, while experiencing the joy of learning and of exercise while gardening.

The mission of the Master Gardener program is to teach others in the community about horticulture.  In Dakota County, there are more than 130 active Master Gardeners who volunteer several thousand hours per year.

 Visit the Master Gardeners of Dakota County website for additional gardening tips, information on our Research and Display Garden, the Junior Master Gardener Program, as well as upcoming events and classes.

 University of Minnesota Extension shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this publication/material is available in alternative formats upon direct request to (651) 480-7700.


Posted in Education | Tagged , | Leave a comment